Edwin Hawkins is the Father of Contemporary Gospel Music and his song, “Oh Happy Day” changed the face of gospel music and ushered in a new sound and freedom of expression. The legendary singer was recognized for his contributions by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and the Gospel Music Heritage Month Foundation during the Evolution of Gospel celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC held earlier this month.
The singer also gave a stellar performance of his groundbreaking hit which has sold more than 7 million copies, solidifying its enduring impact on all generations and the world. The DC Gospel Music Examiner caught up with Dr. Hawkins backstage where he shared his thoughts on the night’s festivities as well as the future of gospel music.
What made you decide to partner with Congresswoman Lee this year?
The fact that they declared September as Gospel Music Heritage Month is quite encouraging because sometimes we, as gospel artists think that the rest of the world does not care, that it belongs only to the church, but it belongs to the world and we’re just honored that that the Congresswoman would be involved. She’s a very persistent woman and faithful to her call and so it just makes you eager to want to work with her.
How do you think gospel music has changed and are you optimistic about its future?
I think it’s moving in the right direction. I think it moves along with the rest of the world, where current artists try to be relevant to what’s going on musically and with situations in the world so we write accordingly. So I’m pleased with where it’s going and when I say that it’s because of the variety of music that we have in gospel. I think gospel is the only genre of music that can have so many different styles, jazz, rock, R&B, whatever and still maintain the message of Jesus Christ.
Do you still see a place for the type of music that you and your brother Walter wrote and for hymns?
Absolutely. In fact, if we can’t really write with the truth of the Word of God, then it’s not the Gospel. If it doesn’t maintain the message of Jesus Christ, it’s not Gospel. It may sound like it, but Jesus is what makes it gospel.
What do you think about honorees Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams careers so far?
Well, what we can see from the outside looking in, they look like they have had some fantastic careers and I salute them both and congratulate them both because they’ve done phenomenal things. They are both such talented young people and I think they really love the Lord and they are sincere about their craft and I love them for that.
Catch Edwin Hawkins and other performances on the Evolution of Gospel celebration when it airs on Uptv Saturday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. EST
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